Jesse Norman MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, leads the Finance (No.2) Bill through the second day of the Committee stage.
The Government remain committed to tackling tax avoidance, evasion and other forms of non-compliance. Since 2010, we have introduced over 150 new measures and invested over £2 billion in additional funding to ensure that the right tax is paid at the right time. These efforts have helped to secure and protect over £250 billion for the UK’s public services that would otherwise have gone unpaid, and they have helped to bring down the tax gap to 4.7% in 2018-19—its lowest recorded rate.
But there is still work to do. Clauses in this Bill build on our previous reforms in order to clamp down on deliberate non-compliance and make sure that everyone pays their fair share. They include measures to tighten the anti-avoidance rules aimed at those who promote and enable tax avoidance schemes. They also close a loophole in the existing anti-avoidance rule aimed at preventing non-UK resident individuals from claiming relief when they gift business assets to a company controlled overseas.
The clauses support HMRC’s strategy on promoting good tax compliance. As an example of that approach, the Government are amending the follower notices regime, which penalises taxpayers who have used avoidance schemes that have been shown to be ineffective, in order to make it fairer for those who comply, while ensuring that the regime remains just as effective at combating avoidance. The Bill also seeks to bring parts of the hidden economy out of the shadows by making some licence approvals conditional on tax registration and compliance. The clauses in the Bill are necessarily technical, which is in part down to the complex rules that are currently in place. Given the number of issues that we are covering and the number of speakers in the debate, I will keep my remarks fairly brief.
Clause 30 and schedule 6 introduce changes to tackle abuse of the construction industry scheme. The construction industry scheme is a revenue protection scheme designed to tackle evasion in the construction sector. The scheme protects approximately £7.1 billion in tax every year by requiring contractors to make deductions from the payments they make to subcontractors that they engage. Those payments count as advance payments towards those subcontractors’ tax and national insurance. The changes made by clause 30 will allow HMRC to correct employers’ CIS deductions when they are false or incorrect. Clause 30 will clarify the rules on deductions for the cost of materials and change the rules for determining which businesses will need to operate the CIS. It will also expand the scope of the current penalty for providing false information to HMRC.
Scottish National party amendment 74 would remove paragraph 4 of schedule 6 to the Bill, which would have the effect of removing the proposed changes to rules for deductions for materials. However, there is a clear case in public policy for these changes. Some contractors and subcontractors are interpreting the rules incorrectly at present in a way that undermines the purpose of allowing materials deductions within the scheme, which allows some contractors and subcontractors an advantage over others. The proposed rule changes will ensure a clear and consistent approach, providing a level playing field for those involved. I therefore urge the House to reject amendment 74.
Amendment 73 proposes to remove paragraph 3 of schedule 6, which relates to the transitional arrangements between the old and new rules for qualifying as a deemed contractor. This would mean that many businesses would have to change their business arrangements overnight and go through the process of re-registering for the construction industry scheme under the new rules. As this could be more disruptive and confusing than the proposed transitional arrangements, I urge the House to reject the amendment.
Amendments 75 and 76 would delay the commencement of this measure to April 2022 rather than April 2021. Such a delay would not be appropriate, as industry has already been consulted on the changes and any impacts are expected to be limited. Again, I urge the House to reject these amendments.
Clause 36 and schedule 7 amend the corporation tax rules governing so-called hybrid mismatches. These rules are intended to tackle aggressive tax planning by multinational companies that seek to take advantage of differences in how countries view entities and financial instruments. Hybrid mismatches can lead to double deductions for the same expense or deductions for an expense without any corresponding receipt being taxable. The Government have consulted in this area and are amending the rules in several areas so that they remain proportionate and do not lead to economic double taxation. That includes introducing a limited grouping matching rule and a change to the type of income that counteractions under the rules can be set off against.
Government amendments 17 to 42 to clause 36 have been tabled to ensure that the changes provided under that clause work and reflect the underlying policy intent. They address various technical issues that have been raised by external commentators following the publication of the Bill, and mostly change small and technical details.
Clause 41 will close a loophole in the capital gains tax gift holdover relief rules by preventing non-UK residents from being able to claim the relief while transferring a business asset to a company controlled overseas that they personally own. By making this change, the Government are ensuring that the relief is used fairly and only for its intended purpose.
Clause 117 and schedule 29 make changes to the promoters of tax avoidance schemes regime, known as POTAS. The changes allow Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to issue stop notices to prevent the promotion of schemes that it suspects do not work and to obtain information from suspected promoters at an earlier stage of the process than at present. They also prevent promoters from sidestepping the rules by rearranging their corporate structure to carry out activities through different entities. There are a number of other technical amendments to ensure the continued effectiveness of the regime. There are also further measures in the Bill to enhance the operation of the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes—DOTAS—rules.
Clause 119 changes the penalties issued to enablers of tax avoidance schemes that have been defeated in court, at tribunal or otherwise counteracted. The changes will allow HMRC to obtain relevant information from potential enablers at the earliest possible moment so as to be able to consider whether they are liable for an enabler penalty.
Clause 120 and schedule 31 make changes to ensure that the general anti-abuse rule can be used as intended in respect of partnerships that have entered into abusive tax avoidance arrangements.
Finally I turn to clause 121, which from April 2022 makes the renewal of certain licences to trade conditional on licence applicants in England and Wales completing checks with HMRC. The checks will confirm whether applicants are registered for tax, and new licence applicants will be directed to HMRC guidance about their tax obligations.
I turn to the most substantive of the amendments before us today: amendment 77, which relates to the POTAS provisions that I outlined. The amendment seeks to amend schedule 29 so that anyone subject to the promoters of tax avoidance schemes regime, and promoting or enabling abusive tax arrangements, should be deemed to have been acting dishonestly unless they can show that they acted in good faith and believed the arrangements to be reasonable. This would mean, in respect of the criminal offence of cheating the public revenue, that a person would automatically be treated as dishonest where it had been demonstrated that they had promoted abusive tax arrangements as defined in the general anti-abuse rule. As such, there would be no requirement for any prosecution to prove dishonest conduct.
I fully agree that promoters who break the law should face the consequences of their actions. That is why the Government are putting so much emphasis on anti-avoidance measures and measures against promoters of tax avoidance in the Bill and elsewhere. We should be under no illusions about this. It is not honest to market tax schemes or arrangements that are known not to work and that at their heart feature false statements.
However, cheating the public revenue is the most serious tax offence, carrying a potential sentence of life imprisonment. It is therefore right that the prosecution should have to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt—the usual standard of proof in a criminal case—and to demonstrate that the person has been dishonest in order to secure a conviction of cheating the public revenue. We all want fraudulent operators to be brought to book, but shifting the burden of proof for such a serious crime on to the defendant to prove their innocence is at odds with the principles of our criminal justice system and would undermine the right of a defendant to remain silent. The burden should be on the prosecution to prove dishonesty to the criminal standard of proof. That is fundamental to the rule of law.
I therefore recommend that amendments 17 to 42 are made to clause 36, and that clauses 30, 36, 41, 115 and 117 to 121, as well as schedules 6, 7, 27 and 29 to 32, stand part of the Bill.
I am grateful to all those who have spoken in the debate. Let me start with my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), who, as always, brought a robust common sense, as well as the skills of an accountant, to bear, especially when it comes to holding the Opposition to account for some of their comments.
I should defend our hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake). He is not an accountant; he is an estate agent.
I have been held to account by my right hon. Friend and I am grateful to him for that, because that power—if I have any power—should always be held to account. Let me put the record straight: my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton is an estate agent, and yet with that estate agency genius he combines the forensic skills of an accountant in holding to account, indirectly, members of the Government and, directly, the Opposition. I thank him for that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton pointed out that these disguised remuneration schemes are highly contrived. It is terribly important to remind ourselves of that. It is all very well to complain about the loan charge, but these are highly contrived schemes. My hon. Friend reminded us—as, indeed, did my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) —of the general rule that all taxpayers are responsible for their own tax, and that if, by implication, a scheme looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is too good to be true. Those are important messages and no Government should wish to weaken that important principle that people are responsible for their own tax.
I understand what the Minister has said. Of course, most of us are aware of our own tax bands. But how can the Minister expect basic rate taxpayers—a nurse, an IT contractor, somebody working in the film industry, even somebody on minimum wage—to do due diligence when nothing they read or have been sent ever mentions loans, and when they are given a convincing narrative that their tax is being paid for and they do not need to worry? Should not HMRC and the Treasury be addressing this issue, because it is a growing part of the employment market?
HMRC is addressing these issues. That is why this Bill has so many measures in it that are focused on the disclosure of tax avoidance schemes, toughening up that regime and improving the regime against the promoters of tax avoidance. But let me say to the hon. Lady that I thought her remark was dripping with condescension towards the ordinary taxpayers of this country. The fact of the matter is that people, from whatever walk of life, are perfectly competent—they do not need to be patronised by Labour Members of Parliament—at working out when something looks too good to be true. That is why so many—such a high percentage; well over 90% of people—do manage to work out what is too good to be true and behave on that basis. To suspect otherwise, when HMRC is absolutely working as hard as it can to make sure that the truth is out there and well understood, and is closing down opportunities for misleading advertising, in a recent initiative with the Advertising Standards Authority and a whole host of other things, is completely wrong.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham) for what I thought was a very robust and thoughtful contribution. He is absolutely right to highlight that HMRC has not been slow in this area. He was right to pick up the point about VAT on online platforms, but, of course, that is merely the tip of the iceberg. The hon. Member for Ealing North (James Murray) somehow suggested that we were failing to tackle this issue. The tax gap, as he pointed out, is 4.7%—a historic low. Let me remind the House and him of some of the actions that the Government have taken—leadership on base erosion and profit shifting over many years, the diverted profits tax, the corporate interest restriction, the tax charge on offshore receipts, hybrid mismatch rules, our new digital services tax.
I very much welcome the digital services tax, which is there to try to make sure that everybody pays their fair share, as the Minister said in his opening remarks. Having said that, it does not apply to Amazon’s direct sales on that platform. It applies only to third-party merchants, so there is not that much of a level playing field between those two different cohorts. Will he look at that in future?
Brilliantly, my hon. Friend has intervened just before I was about to mention that we are consulting on an online sales tax, which is a parallel initiative. Indeed, the digital services tax includes the introduction of a new basis for tax—that is, UK user content. That itself is a flag to the energy and innovation that the Government are seeking to bring to this issue, and I thank him for his comments.
The hon. Member for Ealing North asked about the beneficial ownership registry on overseas companies that own or buy property in the UK. As he will know, the Government published a draft Bill. It has gone through prelegislative scrutiny. The process has, for reasons that the House will not need any reminding of or highlighting, been somewhat interrupted over the past year, but the Government plan to introduce the Bill in due course, so I reassure him on that point.
The hon. Gentleman raised the question about minimum corporate taxation. He should know that the Government have been, as I said, in the international vanguard in trying to drive change on base erosion and profit shifting, and processes of international tax agreement through the OECD. We were also in the vanguard of delivering the creation, originally, of the G20 commitments for a comprehensive global solution to this issue, based on two pillars, and we are leading the way, during our G7 presidency, on this issue, as the Chancellor has made clear. So we absolutely welcome the renewed commitment that the US Administration have made in this area, which we think is a very important change.
Finally, I turn to the important amendment 77, which was tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield and the right hon. Member for Barking (Dame Margaret Hodge). My right hon. Friend was right to highlight the importance of eternal vigilance—I absolutely share his view on that—and he was right, as the right hon. Lady was, to talk about the ever-shifting and evolving ways in which some of the malefactors in this area are ceasing to operate, and, of course, that is true. However, if I may say so, he erred in suggesting that the penalty on the enablers—that is to say, a sum equal to the gross fees to be collected in relation—was in any sense modest or small. It is one of the largest charges in the tax system, and because it is a gross fee, it is of course charged on the total amount of income. It is therefore income on which the promoter will have to recognise all their costs, and indeed any profit and any tax they may have paid, so it is actually a fairly formidable penalty.
The right hon. Member for Barking claims that the double reasonable test that she has advocated is equivalent to the test of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. I am not aware of any evidence, or indeed any legal opinion of a reputable senior authority—such as a QC or similar, or a court judgment—that would suggest that this is the case. It is a claim: it may be right or it may not be right, but it remains to be proved, and I do not think it has been proven.
In relation to amendment 77—this is a fundamental point—no one doubts the importance of addressing this issue, but the means that it adopts are not ones that this Government, or indeed any responsible Opposition, should be associating themselves with. Let me just quote the words of one of the leading firms of solicitors, Kingsley Napley—that
“using the criminal law as an alternative to challenging a scheme in the tax tribunal is not a viable solution. It is certainly”—
this is a point that the House might want to reflect on—
“not as easy as inserting ‘a simple one-liner’ into the common law offence of cheating the public revenue…A Jury should not be left to interpret whether a particular scheme is reasonable or abusive… and the overburdened criminal justice system is certainly not the place to be resolving complex tax disputes.”
That is a source of expertise that we would do well to heed.
Last spring, we were only just beginning to understand as a nation what the full impact of the coronavirus might mean for us. We were told to stay at home and, for many people, that meant postponing plans that they might have made to move, creating considerable uncertainty. It was evident that the housing market was affected by that and it was made much worse when, on 26 March, buying and selling a property was largely put on hold. While business was enabled to resume from 13 May, there was concern about what the pandemic would mean for the market and for the jobs that rely on the sector.
The Chancellor announced that he would support the housing market through the stamp duty land tax holiday, quadrupling the starting threshold for SDLT to £500,000. That was designed to give a boost—indeed, the boost to the housing market that it needed to thrive through the pandemic. It has thrived: transactions in the last quarter of 2020 were 16% higher than in the same period in 2019. In other words, the SDLT holiday has given hundreds of thousands of families the confidence to buy and to sell their homes at a particularly difficult time. In turn, it has supported the livelihoods of people—tens of thousands of them, or more than that—whose businesses and jobs rely on trade with, through and from the housing market.
Towards the end of last year, it became apparent that the housing industry was struggling to meet the additional demand to move home and that there were delays in processing transactions. That meant that some of those moving home would not be able to complete the transactions that they had entered into until after the holiday ended, through no fault of their own. The Bill therefore extends the stamp duty land tax holiday in order to allow those buyers still to receive the relief. In addition, the nil rate band will be £250,000, double its standard level, until the end of September, in order to allow the market to return smoothly to its normal rates.
The Bill also introduces a non-residential SDLT surcharge. The surcharge will apply to property purchases by non-UK residents who do not come to live and work here, helping to ease house price inflation and to keep housing free for UK residents to buy. Revenue raised from the surcharge will be used to help address the issue of rough sleeping.
The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (Abena Oppong-Asare) raised the question about the non-resident surcharge. She may not be aware that, at Budget 2018, the Government announced that a consultation for a 1% non-UK resident surcharge would be published. Following the announcement of the surcharge, HMRC and the Treasury carried out a public consultation in spring 2019. That included questions on whether a 1% rate was set at the right level to balance the Government’s objectives on home ownership with those of the UK remaining an open and dynamic economy. Having listened to stakeholders, the Government believe that the 2% surcharge—twice the original amount contemplated—strikes the right balance in this area. That is the basis on which the surcharge has been set.
The Bill will also relieve the 15% rate of SDLT and the annual tax for enveloped dwellings for qualifying housing co-operatives. That change ensures that these measures are fairly targeted at companies that use so-called envelopes in order to avoid tax on their properties.
Amendment 81 would disapply the SDLT holiday to purchases of additional dwellings. As the Committee will know, the SDLT holiday was intended to give a boost to the entire property market, of which developers and landlords are important parts. Although those buying second homes or buy-to-let properties will benefit from that tax change, they will continue to pay an additional 3% on top of the standard SDLT rates.
The Government have maintained the relative advantage that buyers of main homes had before the tax change. For example, the purchaser of a second home worth £500,000 will still pay £15,000 in SDLT, compared with nothing for the purchase of a main residence. It was a Conservative Government who introduced the phasing out of finance cost relief, and the higher rates of SDLT for the purchase of additional property—all steps towards a more balanced tax treatment between homeowners and landlords.
On new clause 26, HMRC routinely publishes information about SDLT, collected by house price bands and by region. Of course, a full tax impact assessment, including equalities impacts, has been published for each measure.
Extending the SDLT holiday ensures that buyers who were affected by delays in the industry will still be able to receive the tax relief.
In the longer term, the Bill introduces a new surcharge that will help more people on to the housing ladder through the new non-UK residents’ surcharge. It also ensures that stamp duty and the annual tax on enveloped dwellings remain fair by making certain that only those who the Government intend to pay corporate rates of tax are captured.
May I say how much I love your exuberance, Mr Walker? It is never better in evidence than it was just now. Perhaps we are all getting a bit demob happy after 10 hours of close consideration of the Bill.
The Finance Bill includes clauses that extend temporary VAT relief for the hospitality and tourism sectors; that extend digital record keeping for VAT purposes to all businesses; that give businesses longer to make deferred VAT payments; and that add S4C, the Welsh language television channel, to an existing VAT refund scheme for public bodies. A customs clause will enable businesses that export steel into Northern Ireland from the EU to pay the same tariffs and access the same UK quotas as other UK businesses, instead of facing the prohibitive duties and quotas set out in EU legislation last year. Finally, banking clauses make changes to existing tax rules to ensure that they continue to operate as intended following the transition away from LIBOR and other benchmark rates, and update the powers to make amendments to the bank surcharge, the bank loss restriction, the bank compensation restriction and bank levy rules by regulations made by statutory instrument.
Clauses 92 and 93 ensure that businesses will continue to be supported by the temporary VAT relief for the hospitality and tourism sectors. The relief was introduced as an urgent response to the economic challenges faced by businesses in sectors severely affected by covid-19 restrictions. Together, these clauses will ensure that the relief continues to support the cashflow and viability of around 150,000 businesses, as well as the continued employment of more than 2.4 million people.
Amendment 64 seeks to remove the flexibility in the legislation that would allow for changes in the duration of the relief. As with all reliefs in response to the pandemic, the Government continue to keep the situation under review. It is important that the clauses allow for flexibility in what is, after all, still a rapidly changing environment. I therefore urge Members not to support—indeed, to reject—this amendment.
New clause 16 would require a review of the impact on investment of extending the 5% rate of VAT to the end of September, versus the year end, across the United Kingdom. This is technically not possible, because some of the required data does not exist.
Clause 94 will provide the legislative basis for the changes I announced to the Making Tax Digital for VAT service in July 2020, extending the requirement to keep digital records and submit digital VAT returns to VAT-registered businesses with taxable turnover below the VAT threshold of £85,000 from April 2022. Around 600,000 businesses have deferred VAT payments worth an estimated £34 billion as a result of the coronavirus emergency.
Clause 95 and schedule 18 legislate for a new payment scheme that will allow businesses that defer VAT payments from 20 March through to the end of June 2020, which were previously due by 31 March 2021, longer to pay in up to 11 equal monthly interest-free instalments. The new payment scheme has been available since February and will remain available until late June 2021. As of 19 April, HMRC has collected around £13 billion of the £34 billion that was deferred. Approximately 120,000 payment plans have so far been created, with a further £11 billion committed to being paid in monthly instalments. This means that over £24 billion of the total deferred VAT has now been secured as paid or scheduled to be paid. This is proving to be an extremely important and effective intervention.
Clause 96 seeks to add the Welsh language television channel S4C, the recent changes to the operating structure of which mean that it can no longer recover most of the VAT it incurs, to an existing VAT refund scheme for public bodies. That will refund VAT relating to its non-business activities of free-to-air public service broadcasting. The change will come into effect from 1 April 2021.
Clause 97 and schedule 19 ensure that businesses that move steel into Northern Ireland do not have to pay prohibitive safeguard rates as long as there is capacity in the relevant quota. The EU introduced legislation last year that could have led to prohibitive duties being charged on all steel imports into Northern Ireland, making steel more expensive there than anywhere else in the rest of the UK, or indeed in the EU. This outcome would have been quite unacceptable and incompatible with the Northern Ireland protocol. The Government wrote to the UK steel sector in January to communicate a solution that allows Northern Ireland businesses to have access to UK tariffs, including UK quotas instead of EU quotas. This clause and schedule provide the legal basis for that solution.
Clause 128 amends three statutory references to LIBOR in tax legislation dealing with leases. Clause 130 updates the powers to make amendments to the bank surcharge, bank loss restriction, bank compensation restriction and bank levy rules by regulations made by statutory instruments. These rules contain definitions that refer to regulatory terms defined by the Financial Conduct Authority. The FCA is due to implement the new investment firms prudential regime from January 2022, and the regulatory definitions are therefore changing. The definitions in the bank tax rules therefore need to be amended so that existing bank tax legislation can continue to operate in line with current policy. Without these changes, a number of firms could fall out of the scope of the existing legislation, causing a risk to the Exchequer that HMRC has calculated as being of up to £160 million up to 2026.
I therefore urge that clauses 92 to 97 and 128 to 130, as well as schedules 18 and 19, stand part of the Bill.
Before I wind up the debate, I thank colleagues not only in this debate but in all our previous debates for the engaged and often constructive way in which they have approached the discussion. I also thank my friends on the Opposition Front Bench for their contributions. Let me pick up on some of the themes described.
The hon. Member for Glenrothes (Peter Grant) raised the question of the Scottish Government’s limited tax powers, but I would put it to him that what is so striking is how little the Scottish Government have used the tax powers that they have. We saw that earlier, when the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) invited the Government to extend a relief to antibody tests, whereas of course it is perfectly within the powers of the Scottish Government to use the tax revenue they generate to fund the differential for antibody tests themselves.
I suggest that the Government cannot have it both ways. In one respect, the Minister says that we have done nothing with our taxation powers, but his colleagues north of the border would say that we are the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom. Which is it?
The Scottish Government are fully entitled to tax the Scottish people as much as they see fit in the democratic exercise of their mandate. The point I am making is that they have the scope to do so, if they wish, so they should not always be looking to the UK Government on matters of tax if the powers to make the change exist within their own competence and power.
The hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) talked about Making Tax Digital for VAT, but she ignored the fact that many small businesses have already joined the Making Tax Digital for VAT programme. The reason they have done so is that they recognise that it gives them a tremendous ability to manage their tax affairs. It also allows them to enjoy the gains of improved IT productivity. We think that those gains are worth having and worth extending to other businesses. That is one of the powerful drivers behind the Making Tax Digital project.
The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone)—always a delight to see in the Chamber, and I am very pleased that he took off his mask so that we could follow his remarks closely—talked about a revenue compensation scheme. Of course, if he reflects for a moment, he will see that the self-employment income support scheme is precisely a support scheme designed to assist people’s incomes. It has proved to be extremely effective in supporting millions of people on that basis.
I think the hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the sunlit uplands. All I can say is that if we come out of this on anything like the basis that we are projected to do by some of the independent authorities, given that this is the worst economic crisis in recorded history, there will be much to be thankful for. I will be delighted if we can get to those sunlit uplands.
I am so sorry that the Minister did not hear the first part of my speech—I could run through it again, if that would be helpful. I will chance my arm here. Last summer, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster met business representatives to talk about the sorts of issues in the hospitality trade that I was raising. I wonder whether I could crave, or look for, the favour of the Treasury Bench. Will someone in the Treasury be willing, when suitable, to meet those representatives if they came down to London, to talk about the issues, further to the discussions they have already had with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster?
I am very happy to volunteer the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to write to him further to that conversation. We are keenly aware of the problem. As Ministers, we spend our lives engaging with different groups. Of course we will look kindly on any suggestion that he might make, as we would on any suggestions made by any Member of this House, but I do not want him to think for a second that we need to do that in order to be keenly aware and abreast of the actual impacts that this present crisis is having on businesses and individuals.
I come to the points raised by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton South East (Mr McFadden), which were very important. He rightly noted the impact of job losses on the under-35s. It is important to point that out, and we are keenly aware of that within the Government. He asked for an update on the Northern Ireland steel industry situation. As he will be aware, the Government are engaging closely with the EU on this issue. The Northern Ireland protocol is clear that it should be implemented in a way that has as little impact as possible on the everyday lives of people in both Ireland and Northern Ireland. As I say, there is close and constructive engagement on this topic. I am not in a position to give any more details of conversations that are still under way, but I can let him know that they are in those terms, and there has been reporting on this in the newspapers as well.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the question of LIBOR. As he says, he and I were on the Treasury Committee when the full scale of this scandal became clear. He may recall the cross-examination I gave to Lord Grabiner on his inquiry into this issue, in which it was clear that there had been serious wrongdoing. There has been a slow and stately process of reform in this area, and businesses have been aware of the changes. Since July 2017, there has been a considerable amount of work done by the FCA. There has been a public consultation, extended because of the covid situation. There has been close engagement by a dedicated working group with industry. The Financial Services Bill reserves powers to the FCA if that is required in order to support an orderly wind-down. A tremendous amount of work has been done and is being done, and we are content with the situation as it stands.